Sunday, January 14, 2007

Marriage? SAY WHA’??? WHAT’S THAT?

Now here’s something to shoot you bolt upright in your comfy living room recliner: the ancient Goddess people might not have known the institution of marriage.

Vicki Noble* thinks that when the upstart War-God guys came to conquer the Goddess people (around 4000 BC depending on where in the world you’re at), they crafted a delicious way to get the pesky female Goddess leaders out of their hair: they zapped them into domesticated animal-women:

“The Bronze and Iron Age female populations were co-opted and overcome through what is often pleasantly described as ‘intermarriage,’ but was in fact abduction, rape, and imprisonment of the highest-ranking women [i.e. forced sex with, and enslavement to one dude not of their choosing]. Eventually, all women might be similarly colonized in the … practice in which women … are … raped and … impregnated by the men of a … conquering group as part of the accepted ethos of war.”

“…[D]uring the often brutal transition to patriarchy which took several thousand years to accomplish, the entire assemblage of the shaman priestess was transferred, virtually intact, onto the newly instituted office of the bride.” [Ever wonder where your wedding veil came from? How ‘bout the ring? A dude’s gotta have some way to mark his property, right?]

I know this … is upsetting…. I feel strongly, however that this addiction we have to … marriage – and the torture so many of us endure within its protective and isolating walls [men and women alike] – is precisely why we must force ourselves to squarely face the truth….” (190-91)

Now all this might seem fairly far-fetched -- except for the fact that we now know not everyone in the world has marriage. The recently-discovered Mosuo of China/Tibet say a “vow of fidelity is shameful … -- it is considered a negotiation, an exchange….”

*Vicki Noble, 2005, “From Priestess to Bride: Marriage as a Colonizing Process in Patriarchal Conquest,” in The Rule of Mars: Readings on the Origins, History and Impact of Patriarchy, 2005, Cristina Biaggi, ed., Manchester, CT: Knowledge, Ideas and Trends.
Thnx to Stock.xchng & ravasolix for the foto


Anonymous said...

Wow...if this is true, then why is the gay community fighting FOR marriage?

Oh, by the way, I was your response to my question, you said there were gods in Goddess cultures that "were playful, courageous, sensual, smart, creative, democratic, egalitarian, equalitarian, non-violent risk-takers". Just who are these gods, and why haven't I heard of them before?

Many thanks and blessings,

Aquila ka Hecate said...

Hello Andy,

I have no idea why the gay community is fighting for marriage-and my country has just legalised gay unions-except that they are under the same constraints and pressures that the rest of us are.
They've also been brainwashed, in other words.
My guess, anyway.

Those gods have had many names-some of the best known being Pan, Cernunnos and Herne.
All the Mother's consorts were fub guys.

Terri in Joburg

Aquila ka Hecate said...

..err..pardon my typing.
That should be fun guys

Paxton said...

Putting aside suspect scholarship and reflecting on my own knowledge of men and women (which admittedly leaves much to be desired) I think committed lifelong monogamy is a good thing for everyone involved (though certainly it can be corrupted).

In other news, you must certainly realize that "Some cultures don't have marriage" is not a proof that marriage is bad. And I wonder at the reliability of your sources. But I'm not an anthropologist, nor a student of them.

In other words: I yield the floor to other people when it comes to questions of culture and society. But I know individuals -- I know my friends. I see what hurts them, what heals them, what helps them, et cetera. In terms of sex and romance and relationships, promiscuity hurts the most, fidelity has the greatest good.

On the other hand, I have seen *tons* of people destroyed in abusive or unloving but superficially faithful's awful. =(

In other words, nothing stands alone, but *all other things being equal*, faithful monogamy > other arrangements.

I know you never mention *what* kind of arrangements the Old Cultures had -- so I am not implying that they were promiscuous, unfaithful, untrusting, untrustworthy, or anything like that. They may have had something equivalent to marriage without officially calling it marriage. I have no idea at all. =)

But the question I am most interested in, is -- what do *you* think of marriage? I know that marriage is usually messed up these days, and I think women get hurt the most by it. I guess this is my question: Is your ideal solution a *healing* of marriage or an *abolishment* of marriage...and either way, what would the end result look like? =)

Paul said...

Many years ago I spoke to an old woman from a remote tribe in Sarawak. She remembered the days before their conversion to protestant christianity when the women were free to choose and change their partners at will. Children were then born to the community and communally raised by many "aunts" and "uncles" - sorry nearest western idea - the tribe had no concept of fatherhood. She was full of the advantages of the old ways - everyone found sexual comfort, no broken marriages or orphans, children always cared for, almost no concept of domestic violence. I remember being deeply impressed by what she had to say.
My own personal experience of western marriage has been entirely positive. I have been married to and entirely faithful to one wonderful woman for 34 years. In that time we have opened 2 children to beauty and wonder and magic and we have all grown together.
Am I naive to think that personal relationships should be just that and that church, state, law, whatever should have no place in such things. 34 years ago I married. Today I think a loving union should be a celebration simply witnessed by friends.

Athana said...


In addition to Terri's fun gods, there are the gods of the Mosuo ("the Girl's Kingdom") in China/Tibet. One of them is the Great Goddess's lover and companion -- and also an all 'round fun guy.

Athana said...

Paxton, I don’t know what I think about marriage. I can tell you this: I think both marriage and ‘the visit’ as ways of dealing with human sexuality have their plusses and their minuses. Don’t ever doubt, though, that the Mosuo of China repudiate marriage. They do! They forbid people to settle permanently with anyone they might fall in love with. So this is a problem, too.

Go get the following books at your library:

A Society Without Fathers or Husbands: The Na of China. New York: Zone Books, 2001, Cai Hua

A History and Anthropological Study of the Ancient Kingdoms of the Sino-Tibetan Borderland – Naxi and Mosuo. Mellen Studies in Anthropology Vol. 11. 2003. Christine Mathieu.

Leaving Mother Lake: A Girlhood at the Edge of the World. Little, Brown: Boston, 2003, Yang Erche Namu and Christine Mathieu.

Or just Google “The Girls Kingdom” and/or “Mosuo,” “Moso,” or “Na.”

Mandos said...

I think, though, that once men have discovered their biological connection to offspring, you're going to have a hard time putting the genie of monogamy back in the bottle. Except in some end-of-bell-curve small cultures.

Morgaine said...

I do think that marriage is a patriarchal development, and that it still constitutes a state of ownership. It wasn't originally a part of Christianity, though - the clerics debated whether one could marry and be a Christian, then they eventually co-opted it for their own purposes.

The Gay Marriage issue is basically one of law. There are over 1200 laws that give preference to married individuals - laws of inheritance, insurance, power of attorney, etc. Gays are demanding equal access to those benefits for committed couples. It's more an issue of equal representation before the law than of walking down the aisle. If we are going to have marriage, it should be equally available to every adult.

Overall, I'd much prefer a tribal setting with no formal marriage. Men come and go - children need the support of the community to ensure stability in their lives. This culture only grudgingly steps in when a child is abandoned. It would be better for everyone if our society was structured so that the impermanence of a parental pairing didn't affect the child's position in the community or condemn them to poverty.

I've had a positive view of marriage from my parents, who have been happily paired for nearly 50 years, but I think our society has moved beyond the structure that allowed that to happen. This culture is producing fewer and fewer males that are suitable for a life-partner, and the females have enough independence to pass over the undesirables. Without the economic dependence on men that kept women trapped in the past, there's no reason for a woman to tolerate an abusive male. Many still do, but I think those numbers will decline rapidly over the next decade.

As for fun gods, remnants remain - Dionysus, Herne the Hunter, Robin Hood, the Green Man, Bacchus, were at some point deities that were consorts of the Mother Goddess who reveled in their positions. I'm sure there were many more, but like the Goddess, their stories are in rubble and ashes that we have to pick through to find.

Athana said...

"It would be better for everyone if our society was structured so that the impermanence of a parental pairing didn't affect the child's position in the community or condemn them to poverty."

As usual Morgaine you make so much sense.

Lexington said...

The problem is at the begining of the 21st century we do not live in tribal societies, and it frankly seems naive to me to believe that social arrangements observed in those societies can be easily grafted onto our own. If it can hardly be disputed that marriage as an institution often has negative aspects it must equally be acknowledged that the same can be said for any social arrangement -presumeably including the alternate arragements favored by the Mosuo.